The Business Insider published an article last January about a 69 year-old Tibetan Buddhist monk from France who’s been called the world’s happiest man.
His name is Matthieu Ricard.
What makes him the happiest man is that he participated in a 12-year brain study on meditation led by a neuroscientist from the university of Wisconsin, Richard Davidson:
The scans showed that when meditating on compassion, Ricard’s brain produces a level of gamma waves – those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory —never reported before in the neuroscience literature’, Davidson said. The scans also showed excessive activity in his brain’s left prefrontal cortex compared to its right counterpart, allowing him an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity.
Matthieu Ricard says the reason why we’re unhappy is ALTRUISM.
His answer to finding happiness is to stop thinking “ME, ME, ME.”
It’s not the moral ground, Ricard says. It’s simply that me, me, me all day long is very stuffy. And it’s quite miserable, because you instrumentalize the whole world as a threat, or as a potential sort of interest [to yourself].
I get this.
When I think negative thoughts or focus on my problems, I actually end up INHABITING them.
Sometimes this happens when I put my attention only on what I want to change in myself. I do this when I worry I won’t become the better person I want to be.
But what I’m denying with all that self-analysis is my happiness.
The whole purpose of meditation is to train our mind, but if we train it to look only for what’s wrong, what needs fixing, or at our issues—we FEED our depression and anxiety.
But if we train it to focus on happiness, compassion and kindness . . .
Matthieu Ricard says, With mental training, we can always bring [our level of happiness] to a different level. It’s like running. If I train, I might run a marathon. I might not become an Olympic champion, but there is a huge difference between training and not training. So why should that not apply to the mind?
So, what was his suggestion for increasing happiness?
Just spend 15 continuous minutes a day thinking happy thoughts.
When I first started meditating, my teacher told me to begin with 10 minutes. Then, increase in 5-minute intervals. The practice is to raise our capability to concentrate by staying focused on the object of our meditation.
Each morning, I begin with a loving-kindness meditation, called metta. Metta is part of the “training” Matthieu Ricard’s referring to.
HOW IT WORKS:
Think of the being that is easiest to love and let that feeling of loving-kindness fill your heart and embody it.
Then, spread that feeling of loving-kindness with a wish for well-being outward to:
- Your closest friends and family.
- A teacher, mentor, or someone who affects your life positively.
- A stranger you passed on the street.
- A difficult person.
- The whole world.
- And end with envisioning yourself and sending it to YOU.
If your mind drifts in those minutes, just remember to lovingly and kindly bring your focus back. Soon, you’ll be able to sit for longer periods of time without distraction.
After I read this article, I was thrilled to add to my metta practice continuous thoughts about others and myself that made me happy. Who says happiness isn’t a skill that can be learned?
Wishing you continual happiness!